By Ryan Mayer, CBS Local Sports
There’s always plenty of intrigue when it comes to international players in the NBA Draft. Mario Hezonja is one of the top international prospects this year and he is expected to be a top player when he enters the NBA. Hezonja is a 6’8″ 200 pound guard who played for FC Barcelona one of the top clubs in European ball. Here’s 5 facts you have to know about him:
His Nickname is “Super Mario”
This fact is pretty self-explanatory and also completely understandable. If your first name is Mario, and you’re pretty good at what you do for a living then Super Mario should 100% be your nickname.
He idolizes Kobe Bryant
Bleacher Report’s David Pick fully delved into Hezonja’s background in a piece here. In that piece the director and coach of the Croatian national team Dario Kunce was quoted as saying “Since he was 10 years old all he could talk about was the Los Angeles Lakers.” Matej Mimic a former player quoted in that article as well went one step further: “Mario is the only kid in this draft who actually believes he can beat Kobe Bryant one-on-one.” That leads us to our next fact to know about him.
He’s confident, bordering on cocky
The 20-year-old Croatian told Pick in January of this year “If I was in college, I’d probably be the No. 1 pick.” It should be noted that Hezonja had an offer from Coach Calipari and Kentucky to play for the Wildcats but opted to stay in Europe and play professional ball. It seems that Hezonja has a confidence and swagger about him that will allow him to succeed in a league full of big-time egos.
The kid can flat out shoot
Playing for Barcelona in all European competitions for each of the last two seasons, he shot close to 38% from three while taking at least 2 threes per game. That may not sound impressive but Hezonja wasn’t a starter for Barcelona (young kids are often relegated to the bench for top Euro clubs) so his per 36 minutes numbers translate to around 6 three’s taken per game shooting 38%.
He debuted in Croatia’s Top Division at 13
No you didn’t read that incorrectly. While Croatia’s basketball league isn’t a world renowned powerhouse, this is still a grown men’s basketball league and Hezonja made his debut there at 13. Yep. That’s a thing. Now, take the next few minutes to join me in a trip down the Youtube rabbit hole and watch some of Hezonja’s workout/highlight videos.
First some overall highlights of all different aspects of his game.[youtube:”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KxtMk59NVg”%5D
Now, Top 20 plays of 2015[youtube:”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9R05d01sRE”%5D
And finally, brought to you by Draft Express, a scouting video with strengths and weaknesses included:[youtube:”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WngADYTj-U”%5D
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him. Agree/Disagree? Thoughts, comments, complaints? Email him.